Main Themes and Motifs in Heroic Code of Beowulf
The traditional for English literature genre of heroic poetry was first brought to England by Danish invaders in the mid-sixth century. Bards, passed the literature and history of the Danish Tribes from mouth to mouth. Heroic Code of Beowulf was probably written in the early eighth century. The authors’ goal was to underline the difference between Christian England and pagan tribes, with their habits and traditions.
Beowulf is not just a record of heroic acts, the concept of clear identity, the controversies between the opposing characters, the questions of heritage and reputation are central to the poem. Every male character in the poem is referred to as his father’s son. The heritage is a key feature of every character, whilst their personal identity stays unclear. Every action of the characters is referred to a family lineage. The other important aspect of the life, discussed in the poem is the importance of kinship bonds, pride in ancestors and following the traditions of the past generations.
The heritage in the poem defines all – the behavior, manners and even reputation. The linage helps the characters to established their own identity. The line of Danish King appears in the very beginning of the poem, in the face of Shield Sheafson – the establisher of the Danish royal line. His violent nature is believed to be the result of his heritage, actually the absence of it – legendary king was a fatherless orphan, thus, he saw one and only way: to establish reputation by committing valiant deeds. The culture described in the Heroic Code of Beowulf seems not to show the idea of afterlife, however, the fame was the most important for that community.
The poem describes the situation, when the basic values of different people clash and start the contradiction on the importance of those. The poem also pays attention to divided loyalties, as the marriage of Danish Hildeburh and the Frisian King. The war between their kingdoms left Hildeburh in deep grievance, as both her father and her son died on the battlefield.
In the poem the values of medieval pagans is opposed to the values of Christianity, as they give completely different guidance on how to act. While the former assumes that the glory is reached be the persons’ deeds during the life, the latter states that the true glory can be possessed only in the afterlife. While the Code hints to retaliate rather than to mourn, and at the same time Christian morality propagates the forgiving attitude. The poet tries to accommodate those different values in the poem, being a Christian himself, but unable to deny the key values of the Code.
A specific place in the poem is occupied by the topic of maturity and development. Beowulf himself changes from valiant warrior into an accurate wise leader. The changes that occur in his character illustrate that both set of values are important, and it is hard to define the most important of those. This controversy is also illustrated thru opposition of young uncanny Beowulf and aged king Hrothgar.
Thus, the Heroic Code of Beowulf is built on the…